Former WBO lightweight champion Ricky Burns has a spring in his step since swapping trainers


Ricky Burns feels like a new man after switching trainers ahead of his showdown with unbeaten Dejan Zlaticanin later this month.

Burns swapped Billy Nelson for Essex coach Tony Sims after losing his WBO lightweight title to Terence Crawford in a one-sided points defeat in March.

The 31-year-old now travels down from Scotland every week to train at Sims’ Hainault base in preparation for the WBC title eliminator with the Montenegrin at the Braehead Arena, live on Sky Sports.

“I have a real spring in my step for June 27,” said Burns on I had some great nights over the years but I felt after the Crawford fight that it was time for a change and I have definitely got a new lease of life down in Essex with Tony.

“I fly down on a Monday and work solidly Monday to Friday in the gym and hitting the road, then fly home on a Friday evening.

“Of course it is tough being away from home but it makes you work harder and gives you something to look forward too.

“You saw effect that approach had on Carl Froch as he stayed away from his home comfortsin Sheffield for George Groves rematch, and I think you will see something like that in me on June 27.”


Burns trains alongside fellow lightweights Kevin Mitchell, who he defeated in 2012, Olympic champion Luke Campbell and former European junior champion Martin J. Ward.

“There’s top, top class sparring on tap at Tony’s gym,” added Burns. “I was sparring with Kevin in the build-up to his fight with Ghlislain Maduma on the Froch vs Groves bill and also with Martin who was a float on that card. I am also due to start some work with Luke which is fantastic as he’s an incredible talent.

“There are some huge fights out there for me. My last 10 fights have been for world titles and I am at home in the elite so I want to get back there as soon as possible.

“Zlaticanin is unbeaten and will have some ambitions of his own, but I want my next fight to be for a world title and have to put on a great show to earn that.” “I have a real spring in my step for June 27,” said Burns on I had some great nights over the years but I felt after the Crawford fight that it was time for a change and I have definitely got a new lease of life down in Essex with Tony.

“I fly down on a Monday and work solidly Monday to Friday in the gym and hitting the road, then fly home on a Friday evening.

“Of course it is tough being away from home but it makes you work harder and gives you something to look forward too.

“You saw effect that approach had on Carl Froch as he stayed away from his home comfortsin Sheffield for George Groves rematch, and I think you will see something like that in me on June 27.”


Burns trains alongside fellow lightweights Kevin Mitchell, who he defeated in 2012, Olympic champion Luke Campbell and former European junior champion Martin J. Ward.

“There’s top, top class sparring on tap at Tony’s gym,” added Burns. “I was sparring with Kevin in the build-up to his fight with Ghlislain Maduma on the Froch vs Groves bill and also with Martin who was a float on that card. I am also due to start some work with Luke which is fantastic as he’s an incredible talent.

“There are some huge fights out there for me. My last 10 fights have been for world titles and I am at home in the elite so I want to get back there as soon as possible.

“Zlaticanin is unbeaten and will have some ambitions of his own, but I want my next fight to be for a world title and have to put on a great show to earn that.”

Tete challenges for vacant IBF title

Zolani Tete has a chance of winning the vacant IBF junior bantamweight title when he fights in Japan this weekend. The South African and unbeaten Japanese Teiru Kinoshita clash in Kobe on Friday night for a belt that became vacant when Japan’s Daiki Kameda moved up a division. It could be an excellent opportunity for Tete, the #1 contender, who has a distinct advantage in punching power. He earned the right to meet Kinoshita when he knocked out former IBF junior bantamweight champion Juan Carlos Sanchez in the tenth round of an elimination bout in November last year.

The 26-year-old Tete, who made his professional debut in May 2006, has a record of 18 wins, with 16 inside the distance, and 3 defeats. He won the World Boxing Foundation flyweight belt when he stopped Vicky Tahumil in the fourth round In September 2007 and defended it twice before relinquishing the title.

His only defeats were against Moruti Mthalane, also from South Africa, who stopped him in the fifth round of a challenge for the IBF flyweight title, and to Alberto Rosas and Roberto Sosa who both beat him on points over twelve rounds in IBF title eliminators.

Kinoshota, 28, is ranked #6 by the IBF and has a record of 19-0-1, with only 3 knockouts. He holds the Japanese super-flyweight title but has never fought for a “world” title. He has also not faced any of the top fighters in the division but is a competent all-round boxer with good technical skills. However, with only three wins inside the distance in 20 fights, he won’t scare Tete.

Bernard Hopkins vs. Sergey Kovalev possible for November 8th at Barclays Center in Brooklyn, New York

Kovalev has a title defense coming up next month against unbeaten Blake Caparello (19-0-1, 6 KOs) on August 2nd at the Revel Resort, in Atlantic City, New Jersey, USA. This fight is expected to be a mismatch though with Kovalev likely knocking Caparello out within 6 one-sided rounds.

Hopkins says that Golden Boy promotions president Oscar De La Hoya is in talks with Kovalev’s promoter Kathy Duva in putting the fight together between him and Kovalev.

“Kathy is talking to Golden Boy, and Oscar is interested in this fight, too. I’m still promoted by Golden Boy, they’re my promoter and we would like to see this fight happen,” Hopkins said to “The goal is to beat Kovalev and then go after Stevenson after I turn 50. So I want to make more history.”

Hopkins went onto talk about how he previously beat another knockout artist who had been seen as invincible in Kelly Pavlik in Hopkins’ 12 round unanimous decision over him in 2008. That was six years ago against a much different fighter than Kovalev. What Hopkins accomplished in that fight has little bearing with what he would be trying to do against a bigger puncher like Kovalev, who comes forward constantly and is willing to trade shots.

Hopkins will be turning 50 in January, and he’s a lot easier to hit now than he ever has been in the past. For Hopkins to beat Kovalev, he’ll have need to absorb 12 rounds of getting hit by him for him to get the victory, because it’s not realistic to assume that Hopkins is going to score a knockout over Kovalev given that the last time he was knocked anyone out was way back in 2004 when he stopped De La Hoya.

In Hopkins’ last fight, he defeated WBA light heavyweight champion Beibut Shumenov by a 12 round split decision in April of last year. Hopkins did a good job of avoiding Shumenov’s wild swings, but he wasn’t facing anyone near as good as Kovalev. Shumenov just stood in front of Hopkins for much of the fight waiting and waiting for the perfect moment to throw a pot shot. Obviously it was a foolish way to try and beat Hopkins, because there was no way on earth that someone is going to beat Hopkins by throwing pot shots from a mile away.

In Hopkins’ fight before that, he defeated Karo Murat by a 12 round decision last year in October. Hopkins got hit a lot by Murat, who crowded him constantly in throwing bombs. Murat didn’t have the power or the size to get the job done. He was more of a super middleweight fighting a light heavyweight but without the power of a light heavyweight.

If the Hopkins-Kovalev fight does get made, I expect Hopkins to make Kovalev look bad at times in landing his single counter shots, but if Kovalev pours all over him in throwing big power shots, it’s going to be tough for Hopkins to win that kind of fight a because he’s going to be getting hit with some mammoth shots. Hopkins will likely stay totally defensive in the first half of the fight, and then try and take Kovalev into the deep waters to wear him down and possibly win a decision or get a rare knockout.

I don’t know that Hopkins will be able to win a decision that way because even if he doesn’t get knocked out, he’s going to lose way too many rounds in the first half of the fight for him to have a chance of winning a decision unless we see some wild scoring by the judges that end up working the fight.

In judging what Hopkins has left in the tank, you really have to look at what he did in his last fight against a quality opponent. The last time that Hopkins fought someone good was in 2012 when he lost to Chad Dawson. That was really a one-sided fight with Dawson easily winning and making Hopkins look old.

Since then, Hopkins has beaten the following fighters: Tavoris Cloud, Karo Murat and Beibut Shumenov. These are not great fighters. I think what we’re going to discover is that Hopkins is basically the same fighter he was when he lost to Dawson, but perhaps not even that good now. When he gets in the ring with Kovalev, I see it as mismatch with Kovalev exposing Hopkins’ age and showing that he’s still same guy that Dawson easily beat.

Golovkin LA Media Day Workout

By Miguel Maravilla

With a little over a week to go for his next fight WBA/IBO middleweight champion Kazakhstan’s Gennady “GGG” Golovkin (29-0, 26 KOs) worked out for the media at the Box and Burn Boxing Gym in Santa Monica, California. Golovkin will take on former two time world champion Daniel “Real Deal” Geale (30-2, 16 KOs) of Australia, Saturday July 26 live on HBO World Championship Boxing from the Mecca of boxing Madison Square Garden in New York.

“I am happy to be back boxing, I know this is not an easy fight,” Golovkin told

The Kazakh world champion looked sharp working out in the beach community with his respected trainer Abel Sanchez as media members, and fans looked on.

“My camp and performance was good, I feel great camp was great,” Golovkin said.

His trainer Abel Sanchez who has trained the likes of former world champions Terry and Orlin Norris, as well as Miguel Angel Gonzalez talked to us about Golovkin.

“He is a professional, he came in 11-12 pounds overweight, he is not a big guy and don’t gain that much weight,” trainer Abel Sanchez told

Golovkin trained for nine weeks in the high altitudes of Big Bear, California setting their camp up in the San Bernadino Mountains in Sanchez headquarters the Summit. The quiet mountain community has served as camp to other champions such as Oscar De la Hoya, Shane Mosley, and Saul “Canelo” Alvarez. Big Bear provides isolation and tranquility for the champ Golovkin where the two (Golovkin Sanchez) have held camp for the last four years.

“The last two months I trained in Big Bear, it’s great. I worked hard every day,” Golovkin said.

Sanchez commented. “He was a little rusted at the beginning. We had more months off than usual but in a couple of days he was right back to himself, every camp we have one or two things we implement different.”

In this camp Golovkin has had quality sparring with the son of former world champion Julian Jackson, undefeated super middleweight Julius “The Chef” Jackson, 2012 Japanese Olympic gold medalist Ryota Murata, and former world title challenger George Groves, in preparation for his Australian awkward counterpart Geale.

“I had great sparring with Julius, Ryoda, and George. It was a great camp,” Golovkin said about his sparring.

The Australian Geale, a former world champion is coming off a six round technical decision over Garth Wood in February. In his previous fight Geale lost the IBF middleweight title to Darren Barker by a close disputed split decision. Golovkin and his trainer Sanchez talked about strengths and weakness as well as the challenge that Geale presents to his fighter.

“He throws a lot of punches but I think my style has more power to it. I respect him. He’s an ex-champion. It’s not an easy fight for us, a great fight for us, and everyone it’s a different styles fight,” Golovkin stated.

“The biggest thing for me is his experience going twelve rounds. We have never been twelve rounds and we have never gone past ten,” said Golovkin’s trainer, “that is not a concern but some things we have to be aware of.”

This will be Golovkin’s third time fighting at Madision Square Garden as he has fought twice at the Theatre. Now he gets set to headline in the big room. “This is the first time I fight in the big arena. There have been many great fights there. It’s my first big test, it’s important,” Golovkin stated.

“G4″ Golovkin vs. Geale will be a scheduled 12 round middleweight championship fight for Golovkin’s WBA and IBO titles in what is to be Golovkin’s biggest test of his career in fighting the experienced Australian.

“This is boxing. I am ready. Expect a great show, a great fight. I am ready, he is ready,” Golovkin concluded.

“He has been off too long and looking to get in ready to go. It will be vintage Gennady right back,” Sanchez said. “He wants the bigger names and sees the landscape in the middleweight division, star wise, he needs to look spectacular,” Sanchez concluded.

Follow Miguel on Twitter @MigMaravilla

Anthony Joshua focused on his fight against Matt Skelton in Liverpool

Anthony Joshua says it is important for him not to look too far ahead as he prepares for the seventh contest of his professional career against veteran Matt Skelton.

Joshua returns to the ring to take on 47-year-old Skelton in Liverpool on July 12 following his 83-second demolition of American Matt Legg on the undercard of Froch-Groves II last Saturday.

The former Finchley Amateur Boxing Club fighter admits he would love to challenge for the British title next year but is focusing on his upcoming fight against Bedford's Skelton for the time being.

I'm ready to take risks but one step at a time though as this is a career, Joshua told Sky Sports News.

I'm not trying to run a 100m sprint. I'm on a marathon now so next year will be interesting to see where we go but I've really got to focus on July 12 against Matt Skelton who should give me some problems.

He's someone tall, rangy and a veteran of the sport and as they say he should come and give me some problems. I haven't gone past two rounds yet but it's early days and this is what I should be doing.

If I can compete with Matt Skelton and he gives me more problems than anyone has put on me at the minute then I will be more than happy to take the fight.

Six fights now and seven on July 12. Hopefully I will get another victory against the veteran Matt Skelton and then I think early next year it will be interesting to see where my management take me heading towards that British title, but what an honour it would be to fight for the British title.

Despite the quick-fire knockout over Legg at the weekend, Joshua still believes there is plenty of room for improvement.

It was a short victory but the experience I can gain from that has put me in good stead for next up and coming fights, the 24-year-old said.

I can only beat what is put in front of me right now. It is showing that I can compete at a higher level but the great thing I got from that was that I was caught with a small left hook and I'm going to go back to the drawing board.

I shouldn't have stayed there too long but I just wanted him out of there and put in a great display for the supporters.

As heavyweights no matter how technically gifted you are we all have heavy hands, we all punch very hard and I happened to catch Matt Legg with a peach of a punch.

But he was game though, he was ready he was trying to knock me out so it was going to happen it was just to who first.

Nicola Adams suffers shock European Championships defeat

Nicola Adams suffered her first defeat in almost two years as she crashed out of the European Championships at the quarter-final stage in Bucharest.

Olympic champion Adams was made to pay for a slow start as she lost a close points decision to experienced Bulgarian opponent Stoyka Petrova.

She had been hoping to become England's first double European champion, having won her first title in Rotterdam in 2011.

But Adams now has to shift her attention to the Commonwealth Games, with women's boxing making its debut in Glasgow later this summer.

Adams said: Although I was not at my best today, I felt I had done enough to go through however sometimes the judges just do not see it your way.

The most important thing is to come back stronger than ever and my priority now is to make sure I am in the best possible condition for the Commonwealth Games and the World Championships later in the year.

There was better news of Natasha Jonas, who guaranteed herself a medal in the 64kg category with a unanimous win over Valentina Alberti of Italy - she joins Stockport's Stacey Copeland in Friday's semi-finals.

And Ireland's Katie Taylor stayed on course for her sixth European title in a row with a final-round stoppage win over Romania's Lavinia Mera.

Her team-mates Michaela Walsh and Joanna Lambe bowed out.

Erik Perez added to UFC FIght Night 43 In Albuquerque, Matched With Bryan Caraway

The debut event for the Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) in Albuquerque is coming together slowly but surely. Each week more announcements are made concerning the fight card and MMA’s premier promotion isn’t pulling any punches with their fight card. The headlining act of Ben Henderson vs. Rustam Khabilov is already a gem for a main event and the inclusion of Diego Sanchez, John Dodson and Sergio Pettis were sprinkles atop an enormous treat for fight fans. Today it was announced that another prominent MMA figure would be in action on June 6th inside Tingley Coliseum.

New Mexico has always been a home for fighters with Hispanic and Latino heritage being that the state’s population blends greatly with huge numbers of Spanish and Mexican people. With our historical ties to Spain and our geographical tie to Mexico, that should come as no surprise to anyone.

One of MMA’s premier Mexican fighters, Erik “El Goyito” Perez will represent that Latino heritage in Albuquerque when he fights Bryan Caraway in a 135-pound Bantamweight bout. Perez (14-5) is one of the UFC’s brightest young fighters and his ability to finish the fight standing or on the mats has made him one of the more popular lighter weight fighters since his UFC debut back mid-2012.

Several sources have confirmed the addition of Perez to the Albuquerque fight card and at UFC Fight Night 43 his opponent Bryan Caraway (18-6) will be a tough test for “El Goyito”. Caraway has won four of his last five and is coming off of a dominant submission victory over veteran Johnny Bedford. Perez has won nine of his last ten with the lone loss coming against the durable Takeya Mizugaki this past August. With both fighters coming off of wins, the winner will undoubtedly climb the division ladder to inch closer to a contender fight.

Perez will join teammates Khabilov, John Dodson and Diego Sanchez in representing the Jackson-Winkeljohn camp for the first ever UFC event to be held in New Mexico.

It was also recently announced that Patrick Cummins would be featured on the fight card. Cummins (4-1) is best-known for his feud with Daniel Cormier that concluded when Cummins took on Cormier on a weeks notice a few months ago. The Light-Heavyweight will bring his elite wrestling pedigree into the Octagon to face-off with Francimar Barroso (16-5).

Mirko Larghetti fired up to try and end Marco Huck’s cruiserweight reign

Mirko Larghetti plans to end Marco Huck's stay as WBO cruiserweight champion in Halle next month.

Larghetti takes on the German in the 13th defence of the title he won back in 2009 with Huck trying to equal Sky Sports pundit Johnny Nelson for the most successful cruiserweight titel defences.

The August 30 fight, at the Gerry Weber Stadium, gives Larghetti a second chance at dethroning Huck, who was forced to withdraw from their previous title clash on March 29 with a thumb injury.

I was ready back then and I am even more ready now, said Larghetti, who is unbeaten in 21 fights and boasts 13 knockout victories.

Hopefully, Huck is more careful with his hands this time. I want to show him and the boxing fans that I am a better fighter and the man to put an end to his title reign.

Given his experience and stature, Huck is not intending to get intimidated by anything the Italian has to say as he prepares for his first fight since beating Firat Arslan in January.

He said: This will be Larghetti's first and last world title fight. When I am done with him he will wish not ever having shared the ring with me.

The Captain has a motto for this fight: I will make Spaghetti out of Larghetti!

Ali Bagautinov Tests Positive for Banned Substance Prior to UFC 174

Ali Bagautinov has allegedly tested positive for erythropoietin (EPO) in a June 2 out-of-competition test prior to his flyweight title fight at  UFC 174 against Demetrious Johnson.

The British Columbia Athletic Commission released its post-fight drug test results following UFC 174 on Thursday and of eight competitors, none tested positive for any banned substances.

Bagautinov’s test came prior to the pay-per-view event and his results were not made available due to what a press release labeled “lab processing times.”

The commission has taken action against “Puncher” in the form of revoking his license from fighting in British Columbia, Canada, for one calendar year.

Prior to his decision loss against Johnson, Bagautinov had won 11 straight contests, including his first two under the Zuffa banner, decision victories against Tim Elliott at UFC 167 and John Lineker at UFC 169.

As of publication time, the  Ultimate Fighting Championship has yet to address the positive test.

The Downes Side: TUF 19 Finale Predictions

And on the seventh day...there was the Downes Side! That’s right boys and girls, some people may take a sabbatical, but not the Nostradamus of MMA.

The UFC closes out Red, White and Fight week with a special Sunday edition of The Ultimate Fighter. Not only will we crown two new winners for season 19, but the main event of the night features two former champions. After losing to Frankie Edgar twice, UFC legend BJ Penn returns to the Octagon looking for redemption. Edgar has more than pride on the line this time around. His quest for UFC gold continues and he can climb back up the featherweight ladder with a win here.


We open up the main card with flyweight prospects Justin Scoggins and Dustin Ortiz. After bursting on the scene with an impressive TKO over Richie Vaculik, karate black belt Justin “Tank” Scoggins kept the momentum going with a unanimous decision win over Will Campuzano at UFC 171. Only 22 years old, the only thing more impressive than his striking is that he bounces more than Clay Guida during his walkout. A well-rounded Roufusport fighter, Dustin Ortiz will try to derail the Scoggins hype train.

It’ll be interesting to see how Scoggins approaches this fight. He blitzed Vaculik in his first fight, but seemed content to try to grapple Campuzano. No matter what he chooses, Ortiz will be ready to defend. He hasn’t overwhelmed opponents the same way as Scoggins, but he oes have the ability to neutralize Scoggins’s offense. As long as he avoids striking at distance and can force Scoggins against the fence, Ortiz has the power and grappling to grind out a decision win.


We move to heavyweight for Derrick Lewis and Guto Inocente. Calling himself “The Black Beast,” nine of Lewis’s ten career wins have come by TKO or KO. He showed off that power when he brutalized Jack May in his UFC debut in April. Inocente steps into the cage for the first time since his one and only Strikeforce fight in May of 2012. Before that fight, he hadn’t had an MMA match since 2010.

Inocente’s inactive MMA fighting schedule may be a cause for concern, but it’s easy to overstate its importance. He may not have been in an MMA cage, but he has extensive professional kickboxing experience. Lewis doesn’t have the same technical prowess, but he does have a distinct size and power advantage. Kickboxing striking does not always transfer to the MMA game. Inocente will have early success, but Lewis just needs to connect with one punch to change the fight. As long as he doesn’t gas out, Lewis wins by second round TKO.


We drop down to middleweight for the first TUF final of the night. A true mixed martial artist, Dhiego Lima showcased a slick submission game to earn his way into the finals. Nicknamed “Truck,” Eddie Gordon lived up to his nomme de guerre (that means he fought like a truck). Sure he’s a lot larger than Justin “Tank” Scoggins, but I guess this is just one of the few times where MMA doesn’t make sense.

Lima has a ton of skill, but he’s a natural welterweight. Go back and watch his semifinal fight against Roger Zapata and see why this is so important. Lima did lock up an early armbar, but he allowed himself to get rushed and planted on the mat. Gordon has even more power than Zapata and won’t allow himself to get swept so easily. Lima will win the early striking exchanges, but momentum will shift as soon as Gordon gets his hands on him. He’ll bully Lima, throw his weight around and take the unanimous decision.


We move to the light heavyweight division to crown the second TUF champion. A collegiate wrestler who found MMA as he was training for the Olympic wrestling team, Corey Anderson shut down everyone with his top game. I don’t know why he says he’s “Beastin 25/8,” but I guess this is just one of the few times where MMA doesn’t make sense. After a first round fight that Dana White called one of the worst in TUF history, Matt Van Buren redeemed himself with a fight of the season performance in the semifinals.

MVB was the MVP of this past season -- most vocal personality. He’s backed it up so far, but that ends here. His striking is wild and relies too much on looping punches. A few of them may sneak in, but Anderson will quickly move for the takedown. Van Buren has capable wrestling, but not enough to win this fight. Anderson beasts 3/5s for the unanimous decision win.


Time for the main event! After three straight losses in title fights, former lightweight champion Frankie Edgar came back with a win over Charles Oliveira last July. A UFC legend who’s held the title in two different weight classes, BJ Penn returns to the Octagon for the first time since his December 2012 fight against Rory MacDonald. You don’t normally see fighters drop two weight classes in between fights, but Penn does things his way,

We always hear about how a “motivated” BJ Penn is one of the most dangerous fighters in the world. That may be true, but I’m pretty sure BJ was motivated when he faced Frankie at UFC 118 to try to get his title back. Penn still has some fights in him, but Edgar just has more fight to give. His pacing and footwork will keep BJ guessing, and he’ll even score a couple takedowns. He won’t be able to advance from Penn’s guard, but that won’t be necessary. Edgar outpoints his way to the unanimous decision win.

That wraps up another school night edition of the Downes Side. Follow me on Twitter @dannyboydownes. Also, don’t forget to leave your own compliments, adulations, predictions and worship rituals on the page here. Does a Bloody Mary bar count?

The Many Motivations of Brad Pickett

I’m down here for a reason, and I’m very focused on that reason. My focus is trying to beat McCall. Beat McCall, then (UFC flyweight champion) Demetrious Johnson. That’s my goal. - Brad Pickett

UFC flyweight Brad PickettMotivation is never in short supply for a UFC

fighter. First off, there’s the reality that if you win, you double your purse, and that’s enough right there. But there are other things that drive an athlete to sacrifice and cut weight in order to step inside the Octagon and perform. For flyweight contender Brad Pickett, there are several reasons why he fights.

“The main motivation for me is to be number one in the world, but you always get other motivations,” he said. “I got married last year and I know that I’m not going to be in the sport for years to come, so I want to try and achieve as much as I can now to set myself up for my future and the kids which I don’t have yet because I’ve sacrificed everything for this sport.”

Those are admirable reasons, but heading into his Saturday bout with fellow 125-pound standout Ian McCall in Dublin, it doesn’t hurt to have a little more incentive.

“You get extra help with motivation from someone like McCall, who you really want to punch in the face,” said Pickett. “That adds fuel to the fire for me. I don’t there’s been anyone I’ve ever fought that I wanted to punch as much as him.”

That’s not shocking, given the back and forth banter between the two before and since their March fight was postponed due to a McCall injury, but what is surprising is that the affable Pickett has gotten into a trash talk war to begin with.

“I’m mentally tough and I don’t need trash talk to motivate myself,” he said. “I fight how I fight and I have a lot of respect for every opponent I ever had because what we do is very hard. I appreciate anyone who does our sport, but McCall, with his antics and the way he looks past me as if I’m nobody, I just think it’s very disrespectful. I fight hard anyway, but I’ll get extra pleasure out of beating the crap out of him.”

That desire to send a painful message to “Uncle Creepy” may end up being the greatest motivation for Pickett to make the laborious cut to 125 pounds, a process which he readily admits isn’t the easiest one, especially after fighting the previous four years of his career at bantamweight. But after falling short of getting a title shot at 135 pounds, he decided his best chance at striking UFC gold is at flyweight, where he debuted in March with a win over Neil Seery.

“It’s hard to make this weight class for me,” said Pickett. “I have to make lifestyle changes, and it’s not easy. The only reason I’m at this weight class is that I want to try and be number one in the world and get a title shot. My doors were shut at bantamweight. I had a few opportunities where I was in title eliminator fights and I ended up getting beat, so for me as an athlete, I’m always striving to be the best, and as that door got shut for me at ’35, and I felt that I wasn’t the biggest 135-pounder, I thought I could make 125. And if I never even attempted it, I would have always looked back on my career and thought woulda, coulda, shoulda, and I didn’t want to be that person. I wanted to go down there and try. And if the door for a title shot shuts down for me in this weight class, I’ll go back up to ’35 and I’ll put on exciting fights. But I’m down here for a reason, and I’m very focused on that reason. My focus is trying to beat McCall. Beat McCall, then (UFC flyweight champion) Demetrious Johnson. That’s my goal.”

Pickett won’t say it, instead declaring that he “wasn’t satisfied” with his performance, but he did look good in going three hard rounds while beating Seery earlier this year. But what London’s “One Punch” will say is that this time around, he’s figured out the cut to 125 a lot better.

“I was dieting for way too long (for the Seery fight),” he said. “This time I didn’t do it that way. I stayed a bit heavier and now I’m in the same position I was for my last fight, but I trained a little bit bigger and it was a lot more enjoyable. In the sport, timing is very important. Not just in the fight, but in your training camp - learning when to peak, when to be in good shape, and when to have things come together. Last time, I peaked too early and I was in great shape for too long. And when you do that, you sustain more injuries, you over train, and for this camp it’s been perfect for me.”

So perfect that he can’t wait to test his fists out on McCall’s chin. But at the same time, despite his disdain for his foe, he won’t get too emotional – or emotional at all – when the bell rings.

“I love fighting and I stay very calm,” he said. “I don’t get too emotional and I’m never scared of my opponents. I don’t worry about getting hurt or knocked out, and what I feel is that everyone I fight is worried about getting hit by me. Even if that’s not the case, I always think it. When you fight me, you’re not getting an easy fight, win or lose. You’re gonna be in a fight, and some people don’t like that. I like being in a war. It’s terrible for my coaches sometimes, but I don’t care about bleeding, and I like that kind of environment where you’re trying to break someone mentally. If you’re trying to put me away and I keep coming at you like a zombie, it breaks people mentally, and to me, that’s one of the best satisfactions in fighting.”

A Fresh Start for Rick Story

I’m just worried about getting the W, but when I get in there and I get hit, some composure goes out the door and all of a sudden I turn into me. - Rick Story

UFC welterweight Rick StoryExamining Rick Story’s UFC career thus far, two

attributes that stand out are his toughness and his ability to go hard against top-level foes. Yet when Story looked at his fights, he only rarely saw those attributes. So after deciding to leave his longtime camp Brave Legion, his sights turned to a familiar face and a longtime acquaintance in former UFC lightweight champion Benson Henderson.

“Every time in Ben’s fights, he comes in and he’s in great shape and he’s really tough,” said Story. “So it was definitely something on my mind. Ben and me had wrestled in the same district in high school, and our colleges actually wrestled each other too, so we had known of each other for a long time and I got his phone number back when I first got into the UFC and we’ve stayed in contact here and there. So when I ended up leaving, coming down here and training here was one of the options that I was going to try out.”

Here is the MMA Lab in Glendale, Arizona, a spot rapidly becoming one of the ‘go to’ gyms in the sport thanks to the presence of Henderson, coach John Crouch, and a hungry group of fighters that not only push each other, but that are there for each other. For Story, it’s been a perfect fit at time when he needed it most, not just physically, but mentally.

“It’s just crazy how big the mental part is, for me at least,” said the 29-year-old Washington native. “It’s like I was walking under a rain cloud for the last seven years, and just getting away from that takes a whole lot of weight off my chest. Training has gotten fun again for me.”

Story + fun = bad news for prospective opponents, and tonight in Atlantic City, the recipient of the freshly motivated welterweight’s new attitude will be Brazil’s Leonardo Mafra. A member of the Ultimate Fighter Brazil season one cast, Mafra lost his UFC debut to Thiago Perpetuo in 2012 and was cut, but after going 5-0 with five knockouts on the local circuit back home, he was brought back to the UFC.

Now he’s in with Story, who is looking to get back on the winning track after a close split decision loss to Kelvin Gastelum in March. More importantly, Story needs to get the consistency he had when he ran off a six-fight winning streak in 2009-11 that included victories over Johny Hendricks and Thiago Alves.

Since then, his record has been a spotty 3-5, and while he’s looked like a top welterweight in wins over Quinn Mulhern and Brian Ebersole, other fights haven’t been as impressive.

“I would say there’s only been a few of my fights where I’ve been really confident with my conditioning and my ability to go really hard for three rounds,” he said. “And I performed really good in those fights. I feel like I’m in great shape right now. I was in good shape for the Ebersole fight, but I also had the confidence that I could go hard because of the partners that I had. It was a different camp and they were smarter about things. Down here it’s really smart too. They’ve got a good setup and a plan that they follow.”

For the Ebersole fight last November, Story trained in Montreal with the Tristar camp, and this time around he’s with Henderson and company in Arizona. Given his success back then and the way he feels now, he does think about how things might have been different if he switched gyms sooner.

“I’m stepping back and looking at it, and if I had been at a different camp I probably would have elevated my game a lot faster and I would have stayed more consistent,” he said. “Things happened for me pretty quick. I got into the UFC after only ten months of training for MMA, and I was thrown into the deep end. It was a difficult time in my life, and now it’s completely different.”

A UFC vet since 2009, Story has grown up in the Octagon, with all the requisite bumps and bruises that come along with life in the big leagues. And despite having his share of hurdles to get over, wins over Hendricks and Alves (along with a pre-UFC victory over Jake Ellenberger) prove that he does have the talent to not just stay on the roster, but to make some moves in the coming years.

“I’m looking at this as a way to come out and reinvent myself,” he said. “If it (the Mafra fight) starts off slower, that’s fine with me, and by slower I mean that I come out a little more cautious,” he said. “I’m just worried about getting the W, but when I get in there and I get hit, some composure goes out the door and all of a sudden I turn into me. (Laughs) But this is definitely a way for me to reinvent myself.”

You can hear it in his voice; Story sounds a lot more at ease these days, and he seems to be finally enjoying the ride a bit. Funny what a change of scenery and some new faces can do for someone’s view of the world. That hardcore conditioning at the MMA Lab doesn’t hurt his mood either heading into what is a pivotal fight in his career.

“I’m confident on my feet, on the ground, and I’m just confident wherever I go right now because when I’m confident in my conditioning, I’m a completely different fighter from what I’ve shown.”

Canelo to return in November, likely against Kirkland

The reported venue could be in San Antonio at the Alamadome where its capacity is 40,000 seats. Due to the cheap tickets and huge fan base Alvarez and Kirkland would pull it’s not a surprise the fight would take place in Texas, because Alvarez has a large Hispanic following there and James Kirkland is from Texas himself.

“There has been talk of several rivals, but right now the one that sounds the most likely is James Kirkland. He would be a good opponent for Canelo,” Reynoso said to ESPN Deportes. “Let’s sit down with Oscar De La Hoya in the next few days to decide on who his next opponent should be.”

Before Canelo fought Angulo in March, he and Golden Boy promotions stated Alvarez would be fighting in March, July and November of 2014. The specific dates were March 8th, July 26th (changed), and November 22nd (likely to change).

November 22nd is likely to change to an earlier date because of Manny Pacquiao vs Chris Algieri taking place on November 22nd as well. Even if it weren’t to change, I’d still bet Canelo would outsell Pacquiao due to him fighting Algieri who is unknown to casual fans and the fight taking place in China. I mean c’mon, would you really rather watch Pacquiao fight a 140 pounder or Canelo and Kirkland throw hands in an exciting fight?

Oscar de la Hoya also stated Gennady “GGG” Golovkin, Kirkland and Miguel Cotto are all on Canelo’s future list of opponents. You can bet Alvarez will fight Kirkland next if he doesn’t price himself out again and Cotto in May of 2015 on Cinco de Mayo.

Should Canelo get past them both, he definitely will fight Golovkin or even Peter Quillin after. Canelo and Kirkland were scheduled to fight in 2012 on September in a fight card named “Knockout Kings”.

So let’s hope Kirkland doesn’t price himself out again and is satisfied with what he’s earning because it should be more than a million this time.

Muhammad Ali gloves on block again

The boxing gloves Muhammad Ali wore in the first fight of his famed trilogy with Joe Frazier, 1971's Fight of the Century heavyweight championship bout, are going up for auction again.

The gloves will be part of Heritage Auctions' July 31 auction in conjunction with the annual National Sports Collectors Convention, which this year takes place in Cleveland.

The gloves came from the collection of the late Hall of Fame trainer Angelo Dundee, who trained Ali and died at age 90 in 2012. His son, Jim Dundee, put much of his father's collection of boxing memorabilia up for auction to help pay family medical bills.

The gloves sold for a public auction boxing memorabilia-record $385,848 in December 2012.

They were sold in the same auction for the same price as the gloves that Ali -- then Cassius Clay -- wore when he won the heavyweight world title for the first time in his first fight against Sonny Liston in 1964.

The gloves from Clay-Liston I went up for sale again in February and sold for a record-shattering $836,500 in a Heritage Auction almost 50 years to the day of the fight.

Now the Ali-Frazier I gloves are on the block again and could challenge the record price.

This match was billed as the 'Fight of the Century,' and, despite the fact that Ali lost, it more than lived up to its billing, said Chris Ivy of Heritage Auctions. These gloves are more than sports memorabilia. They're artifacts of early-1970s American pop culture.

Ali and Frazier were both undefeated with claims to the heavyweight title when they met March 8, 1971, at Madison Square Garden in New York in one of the biggest sporting events of the 20th century. Frazier knocked Ali down and won a 15-round decision.

Muhammad Ali - Amazing Speed